Message from Program Coordinator, Dr. Chelsea Walton

Welcome to PRIMES Circle!

This new and exciting after-school program provides a wonderful opportunity for you to explore fascinating mathematical theories, such as graph theory, knot theory, or game theory. Working in small groups with other talented students under the guidance of MIT undergrads, you will discover the beauty of the mathematical way of thinking and the thrill of solving a challenging problem.

At PRIMES Circle, you will meet brilliant mathematicians, from professors to undergraduate students, who will guide your interest and help you achieve professional heights.

I look forward to receiving your application!

Program Summary

PRIMES Circle is a free after-school program for talented sophomores and juniors from public high schools of Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville. They work with MIT professors and undergraduates to study mathematics and to solve challenging math problems beyond high school curriculum. Students focus on a specific area of mathematics, read literature in that area, and practice problem solving, expository writing, and presentation skills.

The goal of this program is to increase diversity in the mathematical community by helping strong students with disadvantaged backgrounds to develop their interest in mathematics and to set them on a path toward pursuing a math-based major in college.

PRIMES Circle students at MIT

Operation Details

PRIMES Circle operates in the study group format. The Circle students work in small groups under the guidance of undergraduate student mentors (two students per mentor). They are assigned readings based on their level and interests. The mentors meet with the students once per week for two hours on MIT campus, explain new material, discuss homework problem solutions, and assign new homework. The mentors check in with the students by email mid-week between meetings. The students are encouraged to email their mentors for assistance, if they are stuck on a problem. Time commitment of at least 5-7 hours per week is expected, including the weekly two-hour meeting with the mentor at MIT.

Success of a student in the program is measured not by the number of textbook pages studied, but by achieving a good understanding of what s/he has read. The pace of study is adjusted to match the individual learning styles of students. Learning proceeds most efficiently when a student studies at his/her natural pace.

Circle in 2013

In the fall of 2012 PRIMES Circle admitted eight students. They are studying in four groups, two students in each, focusing on the following areas: Geometric Games, Knot Theory, Probability Theory, and Combinatorics. For photos and student comments, see PRIMES Circle: What Students Say page.

In December 2013, Circle students presented expository talks at a mini-conference at MIT.




In 2013, four MIT and Harvard undergraduate students are serving as mentors. For more information, see Circle Mentors page.


September 17, 2013: Applications are open.

November 1: Applications and letters of recommendation are due.

Early November: Admissions decisions are made.

November 23: Admitted students come to MIT for an informal meeting with the mentors and level assessment.

January – May 2014: Circle students in small groups meet with their mentors on MIT campus once a week to study mathematical texts and to receive homework assignments.

June – August: Summer break.

September – November: Weekly meetings with mentors continue. In November, Circle students write an expository paper about their subject of study.

December 2014: Circle students present their expository papers at a workshop at MIT.


Sophomores and juniors from Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville public schools are eligible. The students are selected on the basis of their academic record, teachers’ recommendations, and demonstrated ability and interest in mathematics. Women, underrepresented minorities, and students with economically disadvantaged backgrounds are very strongly encouraged to apply.


The deadline for applications for 2014 has passed. Information about the 2015 cycle will appear on How to Apply to PRIMES Circle page in September 2014.

There is no application fee.

Download PRIMES Circle flyer.

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